Wednesday, March 2, 2011

K Is For Knapweed

Knapweed is the less than a glorious name for a beautiful plant CentauriaMy particular plant is the Centauria Montana Blue.

If you think it looks a lot like a cornflower (bachelor button), you are right - it's a cousin.

This blue Knapweed is one of those flowers that is always prettier in person than in a photograph.  I think it's because it's so dainty and the color blue doesn't always photograph well.  Take my word for it, it's very beautiful despite it's common sounding name. 

Centauria Montana Blue is a hardy flower good to hardiness zone 3. The Centaureas are some of the most graceful flowers to grow in any garden. The flower heads are like showy, ragged thistle blooms of bright red, deep purple, golden yellow and blue. They grow from 2 feet to 3 1/2 feet tall and bloom during the Summer months.

Centauria grows easily in a mix of sun and shade.  If planted in their optimium garden spot (full sun & good garden soil) they will reward you with beautiful blooms.  (The Dusty Miller's flower heads are insignificant.)  They may be planted by seeds, division or plant sets. 

Here are some of the other Knapweeds you will find available in our area:

The Golden Knapweed (Ceataurea macrocephala) is perhaps the showiest of all because the thistle-like, golden yellow flower heads are very large. The plant itself is an erect and somewhat spindly grower and the stems are stiff.

The Knapweed (C. dealbata) has flowers which are lilac-pink to white in the center, or a bright red. This species seems to attract the birds when the seed is ripe, thus making it hard to save the seed.  C. babylonica is a whitish perennial with yellow flowers which grows at least 3 feet tall.

Several of the species are known as Dusty Millers; the foliage is white throughout the Summer. C. cineraria has less divided leaves than the other common species C. gymnocarpa, but the leaves are usually whiter.

Knapweeds look pretty in informal gardens.  Most produce long stems and lasting flowers making them good for cutting.  The Dusty Millers are great for contrast with bright perennials and may even be clipped to form a soft edging.   All Knapweeds will do well in pots - just make sure you are aware how tall they will become when you incorporate.

The drawings are from old botanical prints. 

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